Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott

Eight Cousins cover

I loved reading the Louisa May Alcott books that most girls read when they were 10 or so, when I was that age anyway. I’m not sure how popular they are with youngsters nowadays, but back then I was under the impression that she had only written, Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men and Jo’s Boys. So when I saw some bloggers mentioning Eight Cousins over the years I thought it was one I’d like to get a hold of, but I never did trip over a copy in a secondhand bookshop. I only resort to the internet for books in desperation.

So how lucky was I that my blogpal Jennifer @ Holds Upon Happiness sent me a copy in a parcel of books that she sent me as an unnecessary but much appreciated thank you, especially given the price of postage nowadays?

Anyway, to the book. Eight Cousins was first published in the US in 1875. As in most children’s novels down the ages both of Rose Campbell’s parents are dead and she’s sent to live at the ‘Aunt Hill’ with six aunts and seven boy cousins. As you can imagine Rose is very despondent at the recent loss of her father, and her new home consisting of so many elderly aunts unused to girls isn’t really what she needs to comfort her. The aunts in turn feel that Rose isn’t like any other child they’ve known and they feel like they have been given the care of “a very low-spirited butterfly”.

Even being allowed to poke into all the rooms, cupboards and chests in the old mansion hasn’t perked Rose up at all. The invitation to Phebe another girl Rose’s age to come and play with her has been a failure, just as well really as Phebe seemed to be a bad influence.

Just when everyone was beginning to worry about Rose’s health and one aunt was predicting her early death, Rose is saved by her Uncle Alec’s attention and being able to romp around and have fun with her seven boy cousins. But when Rose regains her health and strength it’s the turn of her character for some attention from Alec, and although Rose has been left comfortably off with the death of her father Alec suggests that Rose might do worse than to study the art of housekeeping, a womanly accomplishment that no girl should be without.

So begins Rose’s domestic education with each aunt teaching her the ins and outs of their own accomplishments. It’s not exactly what Rose had hoped to be learning but the tasks set by the aunts and the time they spend with Rose are sources of pleasure for all concerned. Her male cousins make sure that Rose has plenty of fun which some of the more snooty members of their society might not approve of and in turn Rose has a hand in improving her cousins.

Eight Cousins is 145 years old now and was aimed at young girls who are now long dead, but really the exploits of the children in the book are there to show right from wrong morally – which doesn’t change. I think this sort of book is what taught me to be a decent human being, well a mixture of that and Scottish Calvinism, although looking around I suspect that being a decent human being doesn’t have much cachet nowadays!

Thanks Jenny!

8 thoughts on “Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott

  1. I am glad you enjoyed it. Alcott’s books were such a huge part of my childhood that I worry when I give them to other people to read. What if they don’t like them because they are so old-fashioned?! Alcott’s home is in Massachusetts about 75 miles from me. I just told my husband I want to take a day trip there and tour it. I haven’t been in years and years.

    • Jennifer,
      I feel exactly the same way about recommending books to people. I realised this morning that I neglected to mention the Scottish aspects of Eight Cousins, with the Campbell boys going all Scottish when they discovered their Scottish background! If I could snap my fingers and get to Alcott’s home I would definitely do it, but as I can’t then I’ll just look forward to your blogposts when you get back there!

  2. I wasn’t sure if this was one I have read to begin with but your post confirms that I haven’t read it though I’d certainly heard of it. I have much of her work on kindle and I’ll check whether this is one of those.

      • Katrina,
        I read Eight Cousins for the second time this past year and blogged about it. (The first reading was when I was about 13-14 years.) Now you may be interested in reading the sequel, or at least the next book about Rose, entitled Rose in Bloom. I haven’t reread this yet, though I purchased a copy after finishing Eight Cousins. I’ll be reading Eight Cousins again because I love so much how her Uncle Alec really cared about her, and about how the whole family appreciated her specialness. It’s a great book, for that reason, I think.

        • Judith,
          That’ll be when I first heard about this book then. I had a look on Goodreads and was disgusted to read a comment from one woman who seemed to imply that Rose and Alec’s relationship was somehow improper. It gets me down when people bring a non-existent sexual implication into something, as if it isn’t possible to have completely innocent but loving relationships with the opposite sex, even within the family. I’ll see if I can find a copy of Rose in Bloom, maybe we can do a readalong.

  3. Haha! Yes! I often wonder on the rare occasion I look at books for kids or teens today how any of them ever manage to grow up to be decent! My own role model was Anne of Green Gables, and she taught me well… 😉

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